With social distancing advisories and non-essential business closures in place, many people – some realtors included – are scrutinizing whether real estate is an essential service as it has been classified in many regions across Canada and the US. Those who argue against the essential classification are coming from a good place, with hopes that more-stringent lockdowns will stop the spread of COVID-19. On the surface, shutting down such real estate services as those provided by agents, lenders, lawyers, and land registry offices may seem like the sensible thing to do given the current climate. However, the unintended consequences would be detrimental to many people and for many reasons.
Real Estate as an Essential Service
The fact is, real estate is an essential service. This is something that RE/MAX leadership has lobbied hard for, for the right reasons. Alongside food, water and clothing, shelter is one of life’s basic necessities. While agents are advising their clients to “hold off” on selling their homes right now if they can avoid it, it’s important to recognize that under certain circumstances, waiting is not an option.
When Moving is a Must
Someone has already sold their home, and must now find a new place to live. Many of Canada’s housing markets were in seller’s territory in early 2020, prompted by low housing supply and growing demand. This motivated many homeowners to list.
A homeowner has to sell their existing home to finance the new home they’ve already agreed to purchase. Precluding homeowners from selling would have a detrimental domino effect.
A family is living in a precarious place, with no choice but to move. Factors such as neighborhood crime or unsafe conditions inside the home itself may have forced a decision to move.
A homeowner has to liquidate their home equity in order to finance their business or their life. Social distancing measures mean many businesses are suffering huge losses. Furthermore, Canada’s unemployment rate in March 2020 rose to 7.8 per cent, up from 5.6 per cent in February 2020. Incomes are down. Meanwhile, the monthly bills continue to roll in.
Those who were already in the thick of the re-homing process as the pandemic set in are now finding themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place – and homelessness is not an option. With that said, this spring real estate market is anything but “business as usual.” RE/MAX, along with other real estate brands and associations, has strongly advised against open houses and in-person showings. The real estate industry has responded in an incredibly responsible way, limiting face-to-face contact and facilitating real estate transactions virtually.
Agents Are Doing Business Differently
Recognizing the need to proceed with real estate transactions, agents have adapted their business practices to meet social distancing measures. This includes digital listing presentations, virtual open houses and showings, video conferences, e-signatures, and e-transfers, among other things. RE/MAX agents are increasingly completing 100-per-cent digital transactions, and their clients are open to this new approach.
It’s understandable that people are on edge, as they come to terms with the shaky ground beneath us and the uncertain road ahead. Together, we will get through this and as always, RE/MAX professionals are here to provide guidance to homebuyers and sellers, to help them meet this most basic of human needs.